The Stenton Lecture and Symposium 2015


Thursday 19th November marks the date of this year’s Stenton Lecture which is preceded by the Stenton Symposium.

What is the Stenton Lecture?

The Stenton lecture is an annual lecture by an eminent historian, hosted by the Department and held in honour of its founders, Sir Frank and Lady Stenton, both of whom were responsible for building the reputation of the University of Reading as a centre for historical excellence.

This year has marked a number of momentous medieval anniversaries, including the 800th year since Magna Carta and the reburial of Richard III (this time in Leicester Cathedral).  The Battle of Agincourt, likewise, celebrated a milestone anniversary this year, with October 25th marking 600 years since a battle which is almost as much legend as history.

The Stenton Lecture: ‘Why does Agincourt matter?’, Prof. Anne Curry (Southampton)

6.30-8.00pm, Henley Business School G11.

The Battle of Agincourt entered almost immediately into both history and legend. For the English it was, and still is, one of the greatest military successes ever; and for the French it remains ‘the accursed day’. The unlikeliness of the victory, and the personal role of King Henry V, have been significant elements of the legend, due in no small part to their depiction by Shakespeare. Henry’s exhortation to his exhausted and outnumbered troops, as imagined by Shakespeare, is one of the great pieces of military rhetoric. Its insistence that the army constituted a ‘band of brothers’ may not represent the ideas of 1415; but it resonated for Shakespeare’s audience, and has been effectively deployed by British military and media ever since. The battle itself played a key role in the struggle for dominance in France which had begun nearly a century earlier, and which speeded the development of national (and nationalistic) ideologies on both sides of the conflict. The French army fought bitterly and to the death against the invaders, and the death toll was horrific, both in the battle itself and in Henry’s alleged decision to have prisoners of war killed. Commemorating the 600th anniversary of this epoch-making battle, this year’s Stenton lecture addresses the question: ‘Why Does Agincourt Matter?’

Anne Curry (Professor of Medieval History at the University of Southampton) is uniquely qualified to ask and to answer this question. 2015 has seen the publication of her latest books, Great Battles; Agincourt (OUP), and Henry V (Penguin). New editions of her ground-breaking Agincourt; A New History and The Battle of Agincourt; Sources and Interpretations are also forthcoming. She is historical adviser to the Agincourt exhibition at the Tower of London and joint editor of the catalogue-book: The Battle of Agincourt (Yale). Professor Curry is Academic co-chair of the Agincourt 600 committee and chair of the trustees of the Agincourt 600 charity, and has appeared frequently on Radio and TV. She has also played a leading role in extensive research into the records detailing the soldiers who made up the English armies of the Hundred Years War. This research underpins new understandings of both Agincourt and the campaigns of which it was part. Moreover, it is an important contribution to the new military history, which is having an influence even in such unexpected places as the United States Central Command. Identification of the men who served on the English side in the Hundred Years war has shown that many actually did fight in numerous campaigns together, giving credence to the idea of mutual trust as an important factor for those fighting in hostile territory. However, even the crushing victory of Agincourt could not ensure the acceptance by the local population which is needed if military occupation and regime change are to become lasting peace and security. For all these reasons, it is important not only to commemorate Agincourt but also to learn from it.

The Stenton Symposium: ‘The “Great Battle” in Medieval History’

2.00-5.00pm, Humanities and Social Sciences Building G25.

Preceding Anne Curry’s lecture on Thursday is the Stenton Symposium which considers the theme of medieval battles more broadly asking if a battle change history, even in a society which valued military success as highly as did that of Medieval Europe? Or are ‘great’ battles merely the products of the imaginations of those who write at desks far removed from battlefields?

This Symposium will develop an analysis of the role of individual battles in both medieval warfare and medieval history more broadly. The term ‘battle’ itself is notoriously difficult to define, and has changed in meaning as the technology and strategy of warfare have evolved. Exact records are not always available, and the accounts of witnesses and survivors are notoriously variable and open to pressures of various sorts.

This Symposium will focus on medieval Europe, from c.1000 to c.1450, and will bring an inter-disciplinary approach to bear on these questions. The opening paper will be given by Prof. Beatrice Heuser (Reading), who will explore key areas for discussion and debate. Other speakers include: Matthew Bennett (Sandhurst); Marianne Ailes (Exeter); Adrian Bell (Reading); and Tony Moore (Reading).


Further details of both the Stenton Lecture and the Stenton Symposium can be found via the History department’s pages.

For those who have yet to register but would like to you will need to book online.

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